Adult Education in the U.S

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In adult education, The concept of central learning theory is self-directed learning. He (1985) said that because the concept is so central to what adult education is all about, self-directed learning has been one of the field’s high-interest topics for more than a decade (Mezirow, 1988).

Many people like researchers theorists and so on have all asked the pistons: what is self-directed learning? What kinds of people are engaged in it? How can we properly provide it to educator and learner. How can we improve learners’ ability as using it?

We know that we must define the mission of education as to produce competent people who are capable of applying their knowledge under changing social and survival conditions. Adult education must be primarily concerned with providing the resources and support for self-directed inquirers.

One role of the adult education can be stated positively as helping individuals to develop the attitude that learning is lifelong process and to acquire the skills of self-directed learning. Another ultimate need of individuals is to achieve complete self-identity. A third ultimate need of individuals is to mature.

In this paper, the researcher is approaching methods to help adult learners to develop themselves with strong confidence. So it is very important to develop skills increasing adult learners through self-directness and self-efficacy.

Since Brandura¡¯s (1997) original paper, self-efficacy theory has been applied in education settings to various grade levels (e.g., Elementary, Secondary, Post-secondary), content domains, and student ability levels.

The author will not apply self-efficacy to adult education field but to treat the relation between self-directedness and self-efficacy to improve adults¡¯ attitude for participating education as a re-learner. The paper may treat of basic knowledge about self-efficacy and reciprocal relation between both two.



A. What is Self – Directed Learning

An estimated 70 percent of adult learning is self-directed learning (Cross 1981). Self-directed learning has been described as “a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others,” to diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources for learning, select and implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes (Knowles 1975).

Whether or not learning is self-directed depends not on the subject matter to be learned or on the instructional methods used. Instead, self-directedness depends on who is in charge-which decides what should be learned, who should learn it, what methods and resources should be used, and how the success of the effort should be measured. To the extent the learner makes those decisions, the learning is generally considered to be self-directed.

Perhaps only degrees of self-directedness are actually possible, given the frequent necessity of maintaining institutional standards and, as Mezirow (1985) points out, the impossibility of freely choosing among objectives unless all possible objectives are known. Some writers have pointed out that Mocker and Spear’s model could be viewed as a continuum rather than as a matrix

Some self-directed learning takes place in comparative isolation in secluded libraries. Other self-directed learners engage in more interpersonal communication (with experts and peers, for instance) than is typically available in conventional classroom education.

B. Who is Engaged in Self – Directed Learning

About 90 percent of all adults conduct at least one self-directed learning project per year. Typical learners engage in five, spending an average of 100 hours on each project (Tough 1978). It is important to bear in mind that most of the research that has been conducted on self-directed learning has investigated the activities of middle-class adults.

Many self-directed learners are attempting to obtain new skills, knowledge, and attitudes to improve their work performance. Others conduct their self-directed learning to improve finally life and health, enjoy the arts and physical recreation, participate in a hobby, or simply develop their intellectual capital.

Adult educators have found that some adults are not able to engage in self-directed learning because they lack independence, confidence, or resources. Not all adults prefer the self-directed option, and even the adults who practice self-directed learning also engage in more formal educational experiences such as teacher-directed courses (Brookfield 1985).

Perhaps no aspect of andragogy has accepted so much attention and debate as the premise that adults are self-directed learners. That adults can and do engage in self-directed learning is now a foregone conclusion in adult learning research.

In the twentieth century, It is no longer functional to define education as a process of transmitting what is known; if must now be defined as a lifelong process of continuing inquiry. And so the most important learning of all is learning how to learn the skills of self-directed inquiry.


Self-directed learning is the most important and well-researched topic in the field of adult education. While the reasons for this are surely complicated, one important reason has to be the intuitively appealing desire to be in control of deciding what to learn and how to learn it. It also fits with the desire and need felt by most adults to continue to learn. These congenitally human characteristics are inherent in the concept of self-directed learning. As he stated, self-directed learning is not an educational fad, but a ¡°basic human competence-the ability to learn on one¡¯s own¡± Knowles (1975).

The apparent need to ¡° learn on one¡¯s own¡± has been a persistent theme in self-directed learning. For this reason, it is not surprising to find that self-directed learning has its genesis in independent and informal adult learning contexts (Tough 1971). An important turning point in conceptualizing the construct occurred with the recognition that it lacked a cognitive perspective (Mezirow, 1985). He said that a critical awareness of meaning and self-knowledge is a key dimension to self-directedness.

Long (1989) identified three dimensions of self-directed learning: the sociological, pedagogical, and psychological. He described that much of the discussion around self-directed learning has focused on the sociological (independent task management) and pedagogical (application in educational contexts) issues. He stated amazement at the fact that the psychological (cognitive) dimension had been generally ignored, stating that the ¡°critical dimension in self-directed learning is not the sociological variable, nor is it the pedagogical factor. The main distinction is the psychological variable¡± (Long, 1989)

While the social context for learning has been and should remain an important factor, the lack of a specific psychological or cognitive dimension has been somewhat ironic, considering the humanistic origins of the concept. Rogers (1969), for instance, used the concept in terms of both a cognitive and affective perspective. For Rogers, self-direction was mainly about taking responsibility for the internal cognitive and motivational aspects of learning. The focus was on cognitive freedom and the ultimate goal was to get how to learn.

The phrase ¡°self-directed learning¡± invokes both social and cognitive issues-that is, issues of ¡°self-direction¡± and ¡°learning,¡± respectively. In adult education, however, most of the focus has been on self-direction (i.e., self-management of learning tasks). As such, the construct has been largely defined in terms of external control and facilitation, rather than internal cognitive processing and learning. Long¡¯s position was that, without the psychological or cognitive dimension, the focus is on teaching not learning. He argued that ¡°Pedagogical procedures whether imposed by a teacher or freely chosen by the learner remain pedagogical or ¡®teaching¡¯ activities. Hence we have other-teaching or perhaps self-teaching but not self-learning¡±. This distinction between external control and internal cognitive responsibility is the basis for the self-directed learning framework and model presented here.

More recently, Brockett and Hiemstra (1991) have proposed an interesting framework by expanding the self-directed learning construct to include a personality disposition. Their framework is based on the ¡°distinction between the process of self-directed learning and the notion of self-direction as a personality construct¡±. The two dimensions in the framework correspond to transactional or instructional methods and learner personality characteristics.

The self-directed learning model described here includes three overlapping dimensions: self-management (task control), self-monitoring (congnitive responsibility), and motivation (entering and task). While each dimensior is described separately, in practice, they are intimately related. task management and external control, we begin with the more familiar concept of self-management, that is, the transactional (collaborative) control of external tasks and activities. This dimension encompasses the sociological and pedagogical issues that Long (1989) earlier identified.

Garrison more formally captured this multidimensional view of self0directed learning. He suggested a comprehensive model of self-directed learning based on three core components: 1) self-management (control), 2) motivation (entering and task), and 3) self-monitoring (responsibility). According to Garrison, AE has traditionally focused on the first component, the control of learning, and paid less attention to the learning processes. He suggests that equal attention should be focused on motivation issues, including the motivation to engage in self-directed learning and to complete self-directed learning tasks. His third component, self-monitoring, is the cognitive learning processes as well as metacognitive skills a person needs to engage in self-directed learning. Adult learning professionals need to pay attention to all three components(Swanson 1998, p137).

As a practical matter, the contingency model of self-directedness seems most appropriate for facilitators of adult learning because it more closely matches the reality of most learning situations. There are many factors that individuals weigh in choosing whether to behave in a self-directed way at a particular point. These may include:

 Learning style

 Previous experience with the subject matter

 Social orientation

 Efficiency

 Previous learning socialization

 Locus of control

A. Self – Management

Self-management is affected with task control issues. It emphasizes on the social and behavioral implementation of learning intentions, that is, the external activities associated with the learning process.

Self-management contains shaping the contextual conditions in the performance of goal-directed actions. In an educational context, self-management does not inferior students are independent and isolated learners. Facilitates provide the support, direction and standards necessary for a fortunate educational outcome. Self-management of learning in an educational context is properly a collaborative experience.

Educational self-management concerns the use of learning materials withi a context where there is an chance for sustained communication. Self-management of learning in an educational context must tale account of the opportunity to test and make sure of understanding collaboratively. This is an important aspect of know edge development.

B. Self – Monitoring

Self-monitoring refers to cognitive and metacognitive processes: monitoring the repertoire of learning strategies as well as an awareness of and an ability to concern about our thinking. Self-monitoring is the process whereby the learner takes responsibility for the construction of personal meaning.

Self-monitoring is similar to responsibility to construct meaning. This may mean adding to and enriching existing knowledge structures or modifying and developing new knowledge.

Internally, cognitive and metacognitive processes are involved with self-monitoring the construction of meaning. Cognitive ability is a core variable in self-directed learning. Bandura (1986) suggests that there are three self-regulated learning processes: self-observation, self-judgement, and self-reaction.

Metacognitive proficiency is very much associated with the ability to be reflective and think critically. Models of critical thinking not only help describe the metacognitive processes associated with self-directed learning, but can be of great assistance in helping students become metacognitively responsible for their learning (Garrison, 1992).

To be aware of this internal and external input, and to use it to construct meaning and shape strategies is to self-monitor learning cognitively and metacognitively.

Self-monitoring is intimately linked to the external management of learning tasks and activities. An interesting and important issue arises with regard to responsibility(self-monitoring) and control(self-management).

C. Motivation

Motivation plays a very significant role in the initiation and maintenance of effort toward learning and the achievement of cognitive goals. To begin to understand the pervasive influence of motivational factors, we need to distinguish between the process of deciding to participate (entering motivation) and the effort required to stay on task and persistence (task motivation). Entering motivation establishes commitment to a particular goal and the intent to act. Task motivation is the tendency to focus on and persist in learning activities and goals.

It is hypothesized that entering motivation is largely determined by valence and expectancy. Students will have a higher entering motivational state if they understand that learning goals will meet their needs and are achievable. In a learning context, valence reverberate the attraction to particular learning goals. The factors that determine valences are personal needs (values) and affective states (preferences). Personal need reflects the importance or worth of particular learning goals. Needs and values reflect the reasons for persisting in a learning task. Closely associated with needs are affective states. This set of consists of attitudes toward self (e.g., self-esteem), task (e.g., anxiety), and goal preference.

Expectancy in a learning context refers to the belief that a desired outcome can be achieved. This factor made up of personal and contextual characteristics that influence goal achievement. Personal characteristics (competency) reveberate the perceived skills, ability and knowledge of the individual while assessing goals. Perceptions of ability or self-efficacy influence the decision to participate as well as the choice of goals and learning environments. Contextual characteristics (contingency) reflect perceived institutional resources or barriers as well as ideological and socioeconomic constraints. Together, competency and contingency assessments represent the mediating construct of ¡°anticipated control.¡± Anticipated control is an essential perception when assessing expectancy of success and making decisions regarding goal-directed behavior.

Entwistle (1981) states that ¡°interest and intrinsic motivation are likely to foster a deep approach, and an active search for personal meaning¡±. Intrinsic motivation leads to responsible and continuous learning. If these are the worthy aims of education, it is necessary that we create conditions where students become increasing motivated by authentic interest and desire to construct personal meaning and shared understanding. Understanding these conditions is, in essence, what the exploration of self-directed learning is about. Authentic self-directed learning becomes self-reinforcing and intrinsically motivation.

Motivation and responsibility are reciprocally connected and both are facilitated by collaborative control of the educational transaction. Issues of motivation responsibility and control are central to comprehensive concept of self-directed learning.

Self-regulated learning emerged from research on self-efficacy (perceived proficiency) and motivation. The current emphasis of self-regulated learning on cognitive and motivation strategies (Winne, 1995) makes it a potential resource for the development of the psychological dimensions of self-directed learning. Furthermore, it has been argued that self-regulation has a beneficial effect on academic outcomes (Winne, 1995;Zimmerman & Bandura, 1994).

In conclusion, self-direction is seen as a necessary process for achieving worthwhile and meaningful educational outcomes. Self-direction is seen as essential if students are to achieve Dewey¡¯s (1916) ultimate educational goal of becoming continuous learners and possessing the capacity for further educational growth.


(Entering / Task)





Self-directed Learning

Figure 1: Dimensions of Self – Directed Learning


There has been less focus in the research literature on self-direction in learning as a personal characteristic of the learner. The assumption underlying much of this work is that learning in adulthood means becoming more self-directed and autonomous (Knowles, 1980; Chene, 1983). Kasworm (1983b), for example, proposes that self-directed learning ¡°represents a qualitative evolvement of a person¡¯s sense of cognitive definition and developmental readiness for ambiguous and nondefined actions¡±. And Chene (1983) offers three elements that characterize an autonomous or self-directed learner: independence, the ability to make choices, and the capacity to articulate the norms and the limits of a learning activity.

Research into the nature of the self-directed learner asking who and what questions: Are these learners introverts or extroverts? What is their cognitive style? What personality characteristics do they have in common? What level of education have they achieved? Are they more autonomous than other learners? Basically researchers are trying to gain an understanding of the typical learner¡¯s characteristics and style. Specifically they have tried to link a number of different variables with being more or less self-directed in one¡¯s learning.

The notion of readiness and the concept of autonomy have been studied and discussed most often in the professional literature on self-directedness as a personal attribute. The notion of readiness implies an internal state of psychological readiness to undertake self-directed learning activities. Guglielmino (1977) has provided the most widely used operational definition of this idea. She states that people must possess eight factors to be considered ready to pursue self-directed learning: openness to learning, self-concept as an effective learner, initiative and independence in learning, informed acceptance of responsibility, love of learning, creativity, future orientation, and the ability to use basic study and problem-solving skills. These factors undergird her Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS), designed to ascertain adult readiness for self-directed learning.

The relationship of autonomy and self-directedness in learning has been discussed primarily at the conceptual level. Chene (1983), for example, defines the autonomy of the learner as independence and the will to learn. However, she also notes that the learner must have an awareness of the learning process, an understanding of what is conceived as competence in a specific area of study, and the ability to make critical judgments: ¡°[Autonomy] is a structure which makes possible the appropriation of learning by the learner¡±

Autonomy, however, is not necessarily context-free; there is a relationship between the personal and situational variables that must come into play for a person to be autonomous in certain learning situations. As Candy (1987b) observes: ¡°One does not ¡®become¡¯ autonomous in any final or absolute sense.¡± Confidence and commitment enter into each learning situation. Pratt (1988), in agreement with Candy, contends that self-direction is a situational attribute of learners, not a general trait of adulthood. Therefore, adults vary considerably in their desire, capacity, and readiness to exert control over instructional functions and tasks.

To understand self-directedness in learning as a personal attribute, more in-depth study is required. We need to isolate the variables that appear to assist a person to be more self-directed in his or her learning-from seemingly simple demographic variables such as age, socioeconomic status, and occupation to more complex concepts like autonomy, life satisfaction, cognitive style, and motivation.


Understanding how people adapt and adjust to life¡¯s infinite challenges is, perhaps, the most important problem for scientific psychology. Not surprisingly, most of the important models of human learning, cognition, emotion, personality, and social interaction have tried to account for the individual¡¯s capacity for adaptively responding to environmental changes, often referred to as competence (e.g., Sternberg & Kolligan, 1990; White, 1959).

Self-efficacy theory is one of the more recent in a long tradition of personal competence or efficacy theories and has generated more research in clinical, social, and personality psychology in the past decade and a half than other such models and theories (Bandura, 1977,1982b,1986). The crux of self-efficacy theory is that the initiation of and persistence at behaviors, and courses of action are determined primarily by judgments and expectations concerning behavioral skills and capabilities and the likelihood of being able to successfully cope with environmental demands and challenges.


Social cognitive theory is an approach to understanding human cognition, action, motivation, and emotion that assumes that people are capable of self-regulation and that they are active shapers of their environments rather than simply passive reactors to them. There are essential ideas in social cognitive theory, which makes the belowing specific assumptions.

(Brandura 1996 describes)

1. People have powerful symbolizing capabilities that allow for creation of internal models of experience, the development of innovative courses of action, the hypothetical testing of such courses of action through the prediction of outcomes, and the communication of complex ideas and experiences to others.

2. Most behaviors are purposive or goal-directed and is guided by fore-thought (anticipating, predicting, etc.). This capacity for intentional behavior is dependent on the capacity for symbolizing.

3. People are self-reflective and capable of analyzing and evaluating their own thoughts and experiences. These metacognitive, self-reflective, activities set the stage for self-control of thought and behavior.

4. People are capable of self-regulation by influencing direct control over their own behavior and by selecting or altering environmental conditions that, in turn, influence their behavior.

5. People learn vicariously by observing other people¡¯s behavior and its consequences.

6. The previously mentioned capacities for symbolization, self-reflection, self-regulation, and vicarious learning are the result of the evolution of complex neurophysiological mechanisms and structures.

7. Environmental events, inner personal factors (cognition, emotion, and biological events), and behavior are mutually interaction influences. Their own behavior, which then influences not only the environment but also cognitive, affective and biological states. This principle of triadic reciprocal causation or triadic reciprocality is, perhaps, the most important assumption of social cognitive theory. A complete understanding of human behavior in any situation requires an understanding of all three sources of influence-cognition, behavior, and environmental events.

Social cognitive theory views the three major alternative approaches to explaining personality and behavior-psychodynamic theories, trait theories, and radical behaviorism-as unable to account satisfactorily of the complexity and plasticity of human behavior. Psychodynamic theories are difficult to test empirically, cannot account adequately for the tremendous situational variation in individual behavior, are deficient in predicting future behavior, and have not led to the development of efficient and effective methods for changing psychosocial functioning. Trait theories do not have good predictive utility and do not sufficiently consider the documented impact of situational influences. Radical behaviorism makes assumptions about behavior that have been disputed by empirical findings. For example, Research has demonstrated that environmental events (antecedents and consequences) do not control behavior automatically, that anticipated consequences predict behavior better than actual consequences, that complex patterns of behavior can be learned through observation alone in the absence of reinforcement, and that operant explanations alone cannot account for the complexity of human learning and behavior. Because social cognitive theory assumes that people process and use information in symbolic form, evaluate their own thoughts and behaviors, predict and anticipate events and consequences, set goals and strive toward them, and regulate their own behavior. It surpasses the previously mentioned approaches in its ability to account for situational influences and differences, to explain the effects of belief and expectancies, to predict behavior accurately, and to provide models and strategies for effective behavior change.


Self-efficacy theory maintains that all processes of psychological and behavioral change operate through the alteration of the individual¡¯s sense of personal mastery or self-efficacy. Self-efficacy was originally defined as a rather

specific type of expectancy concerned with one¡¯s beliefs in one¡¯s ability to perform a specific behavior or set of behaviors required to produce an outcome (Bandura, 1977). The definition of self-efficacy has been expanded, however, to refer to ¡°people¡¯s beliefs about their capabilities to exercise control over events that affect their lives¡± (Bandura, 1989) and their ¡°beliefs in their capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and courses of action needed to exercise control over task demands.¡± (Bandura, 1990 P316).


Self-efficacy is conceptualized and measured not as a personality trait, but, instead, is defined and measured in the context of relatively specific behaviors in specific situations or contexts. However, the level of specificity at which self-efficacy is measured will be determined by the nature of the task and situation at hand, and by the nature of the task and situation to which one wishes to generalize, or in which one wishes to predict (Bandura, 1992).

Although self-efficacy sometimes is used to refer to one¡¯s general sense of competence and effectiveness (e.g., Smith, 1989), the term is most useful when defined, operationalized, and measured specific to a behavior or set of behaviors in a specific context (e.g., Kaplan, Atkins, & Reinsch, 1984; Manning & Wright, 1983). General self-efficacy scales have been developed (Sherer et al., 1982; Tipton & Worthington, 1984), but these scales have not resulted in much useful research on specific types of behavior change. In addition, measuring self-efficacy expectancies for quitting smoking will be more successful if we measure the smoker¡¯s expectations for being able to refrain from smoking under specific situations (e.g., while at a party, after eating, when around other smokers; DiClemente, 1986). If one¡¯s sense of competence is high for an ability one values, then this will contribute to high self-esteem (or low self-esteem if perceived competence for the valued skill is low). Judgments of inefficacy in unvalued areas of competence are unlikely to influence significantly self-concept and self-esteem.


 Performance Experiences

Performance experiences, in particular, clear success or failure, are the most powerful sources of self-efficacy information (Bandura, 1977). Success at a task, behavior, or skill strengthens self-efficacy expectancies for that task, behavior, or skill, whereas perceptions of failure diminish self-efficacy expectancy.

 Vicarious Experiences

Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) influence self-efficacy expectancy when people observe the behavior of others, see what they are able to do, note the consequences of their behavior, and then use this information to form expectancies about their own behavior and its consequences. Vicarious experiences generally have weaker effects on self-efficacy expectancy than do direct personal experiences (e.g., Bandura, Adams, & Beyer, 1977).

 Imaginal Experiences

Social cognitive theory posits that people have tremendous capacity for symbolic cognitive activity. People can generate beliefs about personal efficacy or inefficacy by imagining themselves or others behaving effectively or ineffectively in future situations (Cervone, 1989)

 Verbal Persuasion

Verbal persuasion (or social persuasion) is a less potent source of enduring change in self-efficacy expectancy than performance experiences and vicarious experiences. The potency of verbal persuasion as a source of self-efficacy expectancies should be influenced by such factors as the expertness, trustworthiness, and attractiveness of the source, as suggested by decades of research on verbal persuasion and attitude change (e.g., Petty & Cacioppo, 1981).

 Physiological States

Physiological states influence self-efficacy when people associate aversive physiological arousal with poor behavioral performance, perceived incompetence, and perceived failure. Thus, when persons become aware of unpleasant physiological arousal, they are more likely to doubt their behavioral competence than if the physio